WASHINGTON, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) — U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced Friday that Pentagon backs Saudi Arabia’s decision to use the Saudi-led coalition’s own military capabilities to refuel aircraft engaged in Yemen.
“We support the decision by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, after consultations with the U.S. Government, to use the Coalition’s own military capabilities to conduct inflight refueling in support of its operations in Yemen,” said Mattis in a statement released Friday night.
Saudi Arabia has decided to request an end to U.S. aerial refueling for its operations in Yemen since the kingdom can now manage it by itself, a statement released by Saudi Arabia earlier in the day was quoted by U.S. media as saying.
The Saudi statement came hours after U.S. media reported that the Trump administration had decided to end the air refueling flights, a decision originally expected to be announced in the coming days.
The Saudi move came amid an ongoing investigation on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which has stirred international society and drawn criticism from U.S. lawmakers who threatened to take action next week over the refueling operations.
Saudi Arabia is leading an Arab military coalition that intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to support the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after the Houthi rebels forced him into exile.
Pentagon was re-fueling about 20 percent of coalition planes flying sorties over Yemen.